Are You Guilty of False Modesty? by John Cali

Marianne Williamson famously said “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.”

When I first read those words long ago I had to do a lot of soul-searching. Could her words really be true? It took me a long time before I could accept the truth of the words.

In my spiritual work over the years I’ve clearly seen how many folks, including me, do not let their light, their true selves shine. I don’t often quote the Bible, though there is a lot of wisdom in it. One of my favorite lines is from the Gospel of Matthew: “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works….”

Years ago when I first started my work with Spirit, I rarely talked about it unless I knew someone was genuinely interested. That hesitation or fear severely limited me and my work—I was not letting my light shine. I certainly wasn’t willing to “go public” with it.

I always thought it was a fear of being inadequate. But now I realize—and this is true not only for me, but for many others—it was not fear of inadequacy but fear of greatness. Fearing to acknowledge how great we are, what bright shining lights we are.

To deny our gifts and talents to the world, especially to those who can benefit, is about the least spiritual thing we can do. This isn’t about bragging. It’s about false modesty. Even real modesty is not always appropriate.

My spirit guides have often said, to me and to others, that we need to celebrate and love ourselves and the work we’ve come to do in this lifetime. We certainly should not “hide our light under a bushel,” to refer to another biblical theme.

Related posts:
What’s the Difference Between Self-Image and Self-Esteem?

Self-Love Reflection Questions


What about you? Do you “hide your light under a bushel?” Are you guilty of false modesty?

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22 Responses

  1. Patience

    I am careful with whom I share my deepest beliefs. Sometimes I just don’t want a lecture about how wrong I am by those with other beliefs. And they used to burn witches and I think there are those that still would. 😉
    I tend to be a reserved introvert anyway anI am less sure of what is ‘right’ now that I am older. I now take a bit more time to listen to my heart and soul and go in the direction indicated.

  2. Ron

    Insofar as false modesty is seen as hypocrisy, that much I can agree on.
    When the truth be known, and I doubt that will take place while we are on the planet as physical,
    the emperor will be seen without clothes. Fortunately we will all see that truth as a big joke.
    As my mother often said, ” Beware of the cock which crows the loudest!”

    I don’t mean to sound negative BUT there is a good reason why many do not want to be anywhere near light and that is simply to remain well hidden, well camouflaged.
    That is likely why so many also fear death where they have been taught that everything there will be revealed and that is a tremendous source of imagined embarrassment for them.
    Could that be the big Secret?

    I have never regretted being open no matter what.
    I must admit though that I have always been surprised by the compassion which I found out there in the bigger world. All is truly well.

  3. Valerie

    John, I’ve enjoyed reading the many comments here. And came to me that the real question might come under the heading of To Thine Own Self Be True. Can we do that? That for me, has changed over the years, for the better. I’m happy to be me now, and that wasn’t always the case, so sometimes I did hide my true feelings or opinions or tastes, whatever. Tried to fit in the mold of what was expected of me by my family or hide the more eccentric elements because I just wasn’t believed or accepted so often.

    Pleasing others had become a full time job and left me depleted most often. Just doesn’t work, you know? Expect there is always more to discover about me, and that’s become the adventure, both inwards and out. A real page turner, I am pleasing myself now…and can’t wait to see what happens next!


    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Val, for sharing again. Many people, including me, have been through what you describe, especially in our youngers years (for those in my age group).


  4. Dan

    I think most people do hide their light – but isn’t the trick to both shine our own light while also acknowledging the light in others. John, you pointed out this is not about bragging but more about being true to oneself – but I think sometimes there is a line to walk – center of universe I think we all are – but center of attention not always appropriate. For instance I submit a song titled “Just Be Yourself” poorly videoed, and uploaded to youtube by accident except that we don’t believe in such things – the song has matured since then – but I haven’t – and I think sharing this song is one of those borderline calls for appropriateness – but then you don’t have to listen if you don’t want to. Another good topic, John, thanks

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Dan. I agree — there is a line to walk there. BTW, I enjoyed the video — it’s a great message we all need to hear.

      • Dan

        Thanks John, I guess that is why I left it up even though I had actually intended to upload a different video. It is a song I wrote in one sitting – right in that spot – (from my perspective) not a lot of polish to the song – but since it is about being oneself – how could I possibly take it down. Thanks for stepping over the line with me 🙂

        • John Cali

          I loved it, Dan. Thanks very much for just being yourself. I’m delighted to step over the line with you. 🙂

  5. Jerry

    I used to be guilty of false modesty, but it just didn’t feel right. I feel one of the greatest gifts we have to ourselves and others is the gifts of smiles and hugs. I am quite bold with this (no false modesty here) as it affects myself and everyone around me. It’s my creation of a loving world and it has never failed me. What I send out, I get back much in friendship and love. I expect nothing back, no expectations, but what I send out always comes back multiplied.

    You can’t hide when someone smiles at you, you’re as naked as a jaybird! Loosen up and get real. Flex a few muscles in your jaw and allow your light to shine and change the world immediately.

    Be Bold! Have some fun with life!


    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Jerry. What a beautiful perspective you have — I love it!

      Big hugs,

  6. Joseph

    Here’s today’s Thought of the Day from Neale Donald Walsch which happens to be on the subject of Modesty.

    On this day of your life, I believe God wants you to know…
    …that false modesty will get you nowhere — nor will
    genuine modesty when it is not required.

    Modesty is rarely required by Life, did you know that?
    It’s true. People are more self-deprecating than they
    ever need to be. God says it’s okay to celebrate
    your self. Honor the self, and delight in expressing
    your talents and your gifts.

    It is through the happy sharing of your treasures that
    you show other people that they are treasured.
    Always, always remember that.

  7. IanB

    Modesty? No, never suffered from it 😉 And yes, I do consider it a disease – a lack of being at ease with your own brilliance I guess. I’m happy to admit that I’m very good at some things, and quite good at many others – and I’m well aware that it would be far more socially acceptable to downplay my skills and talents! I hate to see kids learning this, but remember the pressure from school days – never look TOO good, and certainly don’t own up to it, not if you want to fit in! Urggghh!

    IanB ~

    • Patience

      Which do you consider a ‘disease’? Modesty or false Modesty (which is really the opposite).
      Personally I find a modest person with great skills who leads by quiet example and acts more and speaks less to be most inspiring. Their light shines through their deeds.

        • Patience

          IanB mentioned that he did in his post and I was asking for clarification. I also don’t consider either a ‘disease’. 😉

  8. Valerie

    John, I know there have been times I worried about this some, but not any more. We all grow at our own pace, just as each flower blooms in its own season. I have no need to push the river, and can shine my light without saying a word. To me the outcome is assured, a Done Deal so to speak. So, I don’t feel guilty at all, and will ‘come out’ as my comfort level or compassion or spirit leads me. I just feel no need to go public and if there are those who would benefit from something I have to give, I expect they will cross my path, just as some teachers have been shown up for me too, when I was ready.

    Now another way to look at this…do I own my own power? That question put to me recently when I was highly reactive/sensitive to a certain crystal that was sent to me. And the answer I found was the ego/head/rational side of me still gets a bit leery when confronted with power or in this case, unexpectedly sensitive to it. But when I grounded and sat and looked within, I got it that my intuitive/feeling side was just fine with it. Balancing my mind/ Head against my mind/ heart center is still the name of the game. As I am better at noticing the difference and allowing, and NOT judging myself for it, it gets easier.

    • John Cali

      Thanks very much, Val, for sharing your thoughts. In hindsight, and judging from the comments of others, my choice of the word “guilty” in the title was not a good one.

      That’s why I value the views of all our readers. Thanks again for yours.

  9. Chuck

    Yes i think do hide under the bushel on many things. Its probably reduced a bit after learning that i should connect to Spirit etc. but still have some ways to go for sure.
    But i am not sure of Marianne Williamson quote. At this moment it seems like its the other way round for me.
    I think its my deepest fear of inadequency that makes me hide. And not the fear that i am powerful beyond measure. I have read we are powerful beyond measure but i dont think emotionally i believe it in the first place. So it cant be that fear.

  10. Mikala St. Germain

    I had a strange reaction to this post. I find the suggestion of any “guilt” distasteful, especially since it relates to the assumption in certain religions that we are born guilty and sinful, a total untruth. Considering that we are here to experience and learn in a duality by the choices we make, how is it possible to be guilty of anything?

    Secondly, I had to look up the word “modesty” to make certain my understanding of the word was correct. “Not vain or boastful, unassuming, shy or reserved, decorous, decent, not extreme, unpretentious” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

    The only part of that I can connect with the message or question is “shy or reserved.” Well, let’s see: I’m not shy. Am I “falsely reserved”? Truthfully, I am not even certain I know what that means. It appears to me that there is a very fine line here as this pertains to our “shining our light for all to see”. If you exist / live in the light, how can you hold that back? it just is, and it shows, if not by sight, then by energy.

    If this means, “Are you pretending not to live in the Light.”, then you aren’t living in the Light totally, so it’s not a pretense, is it?

    Perhaps I should just answer, “no” and let it be.

    Blessings to all..

  11. Silvy

    I am working on … Myself expressing who I really am since listening to Spirit : ) Thanks again John 🙂 Looking forward for the book! 🙂 Much <3 and appreciation.

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